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Many are those that focus on female divinities, leaving male divinities in the shadows if they get mentioned at all. This is a shame. Here I will share my thoughts, stories and prayers on male divinities.

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My definition of Paganism

I’m going to step away from my usual blogging theme this week to share a topic that came to me while driving the two hours it took me to get to my camping destination.  (Hubby and I are on staff for a Pagan retreat here in Colorado and this was our work weekend.)  We had stopped for lunch at a place where the server recognized our t-shirts as Pagan in content.  So she proceeded to ask questions which required long answers.  Neither of us had the time.  I needed to get back on the road and she needed to help her other customers. So in hopes that it will be of service to her (I so hope she emails me!), those just starting out and those that are trying to make sense of what the broader community is, here is my viewpoint.  I am NOT trying to start up the “my way vs. your way” debate again…most of this is based on my own experiences and observances.  Your mileage, as always, may vary.

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What I’ve learned about Paganism in the 18+ years that I’ve been a Pagan in 1000 words or less.

Pagan is a very broad umbrella term. Very broad, just as Christianity is a very broad umbrella term.  I define it as anyone that acknowledges more than one god.  Typically these gods are pre-Christian but I believe there is always the possibility that others can occur during or after that time.  There are two main categories of Pagan:  Polytheists and Duotheists.

Duotheists are the most talked about as Wicca has received a lot of press, both good and bad.  This publicity has caused some to consider all Pagans to be Wiccans (hence the outcry by the Polytheists who don’t want to be painted with that brush).  Duotheists believe that all gods are one God and all goddesses are one Goddess.  There are initiatory Wiccans and eclectic Wiccans; they both are often at odds with one another too.

Poltheists tend to be more scholarly and considered to be less “touchy-feelie” than Duotheists (another broad generalization that is inaccurate).  They rely on the incomplete documentation of another culture and another time to chart their practices.  There are strict or hard polytheists, squishy polytheists and soft polytheists.  They argue a lot too.  (Are you seeing a theme yet?)

Witchcraft can be found in either main category.  Eclectics (often accused of being “fluffy)  bridge the categories, going wherever there is mead…or anything else that adds to their practice.  Appropriation is term that is often bandied about in the Pagan community especially when referencing Eclectics.  Personally I think it is a modern concept used to try to keep people from growing in new directions.  However it can have very negative aspects if not done with a lot of thought and respect for yourself and the culture from which you are borrowing. The ancients borrowed and blended at will.   Scholars call this syncretism.

The beauty of Paganism is that it allows individuals to find the path that serves their needs the best.  There is no central authority.  There is only the practitioner and their gods, and sometimes their ancestors and spirits too.  The ugliness of Paganism is that there are those that want to others to do it their way because it is better/truer/accurate/whatever.  Tolerance is too often mouthed but not practiced.  Tolerance does not mean that you accept or even agree with someone else’s choices.  Tolerance means that you give them the right to walk their religious/spiritual path without hindrance despite disliking their choices.

Now there are those that proclaim that their path has 400 years of documentation or linage.  While this is possible, it isn’t very probable.  My advice is to be politely curious and privately skeptical.  Their claims do nothing of service or disservice to you.  Debating it generates unnecessary negativity that inhibits any learning process, for them or you.

So what is a “baby” Pagan, a newbie to do?  Cultivate your gut instinct.  Follow where it leads.  Understand that you are going to stumble.  You may even fall.  You will take paths that are wrong for you.  The key is to keep going.  Admit when you are wrong.  Make necessary amends and move on.  Never stop learning.  Read.  Ask.  Put yourself out of your comfort zone.  Never stop striving for whatever is next.  Never think that this way or that way is the path for everyone.  We are all individuals and so all our paths will be individualistic.  The fellowship of other Pagans should be to help encourage you to walk that path, not to tell you how or where to walk.

My path is a wandering one and makes for a good example.  I was raised Roman Catholic but experiences within its ranks led me to look elsewhere.  I started out as an eclectic, solitary Wiccan.  My first books were by Scott Cunningham.  I spent a lot of time on AOL’s “Ask a Witch” chat room.  I read Silver Ravenwolf, Patricia Telesco, Marian Weinstein and Margrot Adler.  My first ritual was at the same local festival that I now help staff. I got involved with a small coven for a short time. Eventually it was that same festival that led me to polytheism due to a workshop on Dionysos. I broke away from the coven as our paths were going in different directions.  I read Carl Kerenyi and Walter Burkert.  I joined an online organization, Neos Alexandria.  Dionysos led me to Zeus.  Zeus took me in as one of his devotees and put me to work with Hermes who got me involved in writing. The writing caused me to have to read even more…Jennifer Reif, Theoi.com, Hesiod, Ovid, Martin Nilsson, Jon Mikalson, Lynn Roller, etc.  The reading will never end.  (Oh the works I dream of getting my hands upon like Bernard Cooke’s Zeus set!)!  I ended up editing a devotional for Zeus through Bibliotheca Alexandrina and contributing to many others through them. If forced into a detailed explanation of my path I currently classify myself as an eclectic, solitary, squishy, Hellenic Polytheist who is going through ADF’s dedicant program. But my preferred response is “I am Pagan.”  And proud of it.

 

 

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I am a Hellenic Pagan, dedicated to Zeus, living in the Colorado mountains with my husband, our son, two cats and a yellow lab.  In the little bit of free time that I have, I enjoy reading and crafting.

Comments

  • Wizard Garber
    Wizard Garber Monday, 08 July 2013

    This is really narrow. Jews of the biblical era refer to non-jews as goyim or gentiles, which translates to pagan. Muslims refer to Arabs who don't accept Muhammed as pagans. Semitic Neopaganism refers to old middle eastern religions. British Christians referred to non-christian Celts and Picts as pagans. Non-Christian Romans who worshipped the old Roman pantheon were called Pagans. The Christians on the US frontier referred to Native American religious practices as pagan. I myself practice a hybrid of Native American spirituality, Western Occultism and Shamanism all of which I would call pagan.

  • Naya Aerodiode
    Naya Aerodiode Tuesday, 09 July 2013

    Also, us pantheist and animist types. I don't worship any gods. I worship nature in all of its amazing, complex, and profound beauty. This is the problem with defining Paganism - you're going to leave out someone. I just make it easy and say, "If you call yourself one, you are."

  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw Tuesday, 09 July 2013

    :D Oh yes that is quite the issue. I'm willing to admit mine is only one viewpoint. Getting everyone to agree to it is beyond my abilities. I know better than to herd cats.

  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw Monday, 08 July 2013

    and here I thought I was going to be told that my definition was too broad. :)

    Calling someone pagan as a derogatory term was not part of my definition though it is certainly historically accurate. My definition was for Paganism was as a religion as it is practiced now. I'm sorry I did not make that clear.

    I'm sure there are a number of religions that could fall under this umbrella that I did not mention. I was working from my experiences only. I do not know enough about Native American spirituality or any of the others you mention to be able to put them in a category.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Monday, 08 July 2013

    I've gotta echo Wizard on the narrowness of this one, which is interesting. Monist Goddess worshippers ("We all come from the Goddess, and to Her we shall return") are completely left out of this definition. Which seems odd to me since I know a LOT of women who consider themselves Pagans, and even Witches, who are of that particular persuasion.

  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw Monday, 08 July 2013

    By my understanding, monists still acknowledge more than one deity, they just honor only the one. If my understanding is incorrect then monists are monotheists and so no, they do not fall under my definition of Pagan. Personally I think to be Pagan you need to acknowledge both the masculine and the feminine. Those that believe only in a Goddess seem to be a reaction to the paternal religions such as Islam and Christianity. I don't agree with either stance as they both seem too extreme. However, I would never tell someone that can't call themselves Pagan. All I can say is that their definition of Paganism does not agree with my own.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Tuesday, 09 July 2013

    I appreciate the open-mindedness of saying "their definition of Paganism does not agree with my own." That said, there are entire families of (generally recognized as) Pagan traditions that are Goddess-only. (Dianic Wicca, anyone?) So to say "to be Pagan you need to acknowledge both the masculine and the feminine" would toss a lot of women (and a few men) out into the cold.

  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw Tuesday, 09 July 2013

    Paganism above all is a path of individuals with similarities. I stand by my definition but I acknowledge that there are those that will not fit and it is not my intention to make them feel left out. This definition is based on my experiences and my beliefs.

    However, I strongly disagree with denying masculine divinities or relegating them to a lesser role (hence the reason that I volunteered to step outside my comfortzone do this blog)...just as I strongly disagree with denying the feminine or putting female divinities in lesser roles. (As I strong willed female, I have issues with anyone telling me that females are less.) This does not mean that I expect others to honor both sexes if that is not their inclination, but I do think they ought to acknowledge that there is another. There is nothing wrong with henotheism but I have plenty of issues with monotheism.

  • Jamie
    Jamie Tuesday, 09 July 2013

    Aj, monists believe in an ultimate divine unity, a single fount of godhood, like the sunshine behind the most beautiful stained-glass window you could ever behold. You might also think of it as a single breathtaking jewel with an untold number of facets, each facet representing the Gods, angels, and daemons of the spirit world.

    I worship many Goddesses and Gods, but I also believe in that ultimate unity, that single fount, which we Platonists Pagans refer to as "The One" or "The Source". This is the theological bone of contention between Platonist sympathizers (and monists generally), and hard polytheists. The early Christians appropriated Platonist thought. They distorted the concept of "The One", removing it from its original context, and applied it only to Yahweh. This is the root of the bogus belief, promoted since the European dark ages, that so-called 'Neoplatonists' are "Pagan monotheists".

    Show me any Platonist Pagan philosopher-priest of Late Antiquity, ANY ONE, who honored the Gods not unlike we do today, who referred to himself or his followers as "Pagan monotheists". YOU CAN'T.

    A henotheist is someone who acknowledges the existence of multiple, divine personhoods, but only honors a single one of Them.

    Aetius

  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw Tuesday, 09 July 2013

    Ah thank you for clearing that up for me.

    I have a heard enough of a time understanding the gods, I admit I do not worry what or if there is something beyond them. I trust if I ever really need to know, they'll find a way to teach it to me. :)

  • Brian Shea
    Brian Shea Monday, 08 July 2013

    And apparently, as I've found out recently, there are atheist pagans! Or non theist pagans. Who knew? There are also those who are 'nature centered' vs those who are 'occult centered'.

  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw Monday, 08 July 2013

    It does seem odd, though for the most part I understand the wanting to be included in a community that for the most part is welcoming of those that are considered oddballs in society. I do not use earth-centered as part of my definition of Pagan because not everyone feels that attachment.

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